Reupholster A Desk Chair!

I recently decided that my old computer desk chair needed a little face lift. The chair is about two years old so the foam had gone all flat and it was no longer comfortable. Plus it was boring and black and ugly. So I reupholstered it!

DIY Desk Chair Makeover

It’s so cute and fun now; it makes me happy every time I look at it! Plus it’s way more comfortable because I replaced the foam as well as replacing the fabric.

I was actually surprised at just how easy this was to do. I always figured reupholstering something was a “real” project, not just some little crafty thing I could pull together in an hour or so. But it turns out it’s a lot simpler than I had imagined (and it only took me about an hour!) If you have a staple gun and a bit of time, you can do it too! Actually, you don’t even need a staple gun, it just makes it a little easier 🙂

Here’s what you need:

  • an old chair that needs some beautification
  • fabric (something a bit thicker than standard quilting cotton)
  • foam (can be found in any fabric store; I used 1″ foam but you can use any thickness depending on how cushy you want your chair to be)
  • batting
  • a staple gun and staples
  • a screwdriver

Note: If you don’t have a staple gun, that’s okay! You can do this with a hammer instead. Just get some carpet tacks (super short nails; you can find them at any hardware store) and hammer the tacks in to hold down the fabric instead of stapling it.

By the way, if your old chair that needs beautification doesn’t have fabric, you can still spruce it up and give it new life! Check out these custom bar stools from The DIY Village for a tutorial on fixing up plain wooden chairs or stools!

1. Take apart your chair

The seat and backrest of your chair should come off of the main spine part, somehow. If your chair is like mine, there are screws on the bottom of the seat and on the back of the backrest. Just unscrew those guys to remove the seat and backrest.

2. Pull the plastic backing off of the seat and backrest

The backing on my chair has a little lip that curls around to the front to hold down the edge of the fabric and foam, so it was pretty easy to just “snap” the whole plastic piece off. Just make sure to unscrew any screws and remove any staples holding the plastic backing onto the wooden base before pulling the plastic off. (Totally missed a staple on my seat and I split the plastic in half. Thank God for superglue!)

DIY Desk Chair Makeover: Pulling apart the chair

3. Separate the current fabric and foam from the wooden backing

Meaning, pull out ALL THOSE STAPLES! I won’t lie, this was the least fun part of the whole thing. I shoved a flathead screwdriver under each staple to sort of pry it up, then grabbed it with the pliers and pulled it the rest of the way out. About 100 times. Blech. My hands were cramping for sure. (JM says I need a positive spin here. I just sort of snorted at him and added this parenthetical. There was nothing positive about this part, except that it got me one step closer to the fun part.)

4. Measure and cut your foam

If you’re reupholstering a normal dining room chair, you want your foam about half an inch bigger than the piece of wood so that the edges of the wood are covered and soft when you’re done wrapping it all back up. But for my specific project I cut the foam to exactly the size of the wood board because the plastic backing wraps around to the front and I didn’t want it to be too thick for it to “snap” back on.

DIY Desk Chair Makeover: Measuring foam

Place your wood backing down onto the foam with the back side face up, and trace the edges with a pen. If your wood pieces are slightly curved like mine are in the photo above, make sure you press the foam into the curve while you trace to get the shape right.

Then cut the foam along your lines. Don’t worry about making nice clean lines here; it’s going to get covered up and you won’t notice any weirdness in the finished chair.

I also broke the top corners of my foam just to make doubly sure that the plastic backing piece could snap back on when I was finished. This part is totally optional, but if you want a gentler slope towards the edges of your chair just take your scissors and cut off the top corner of the foam.

DIY Desk Chair Makeover: Breaking the foam edge

The side of foam facing the camera is the top, where you’ll be sitting.

DIY Desk Chair Makeover: Breaking the foam edge

See how raggedy my cuts are? Doesn’t matter at all!

5. Measure and cut your batting

I suppose the batting part is optional for a cheap computer desk chair, but if you’re reupholstering real chairs you’ll probably want it. I had some batting anyway and figured it couldn’t hurt to make it even more cushy!

You want your batting to be about two inches larger than your piece of wood. Since my foam was cut exactly to the size of my wood I just used that to measure.

DIY Desk Chair Makeover: Measuring batting

Again, don’t worry about being precise in your cuts here. I obviously wasn’t. 🙂

6. Measure and cut your fabric

Your fabric should extend over the edges of your piece of wood by about three inches. Again, I just measured with my foam and batting.

DIY Desk Chair Makeover: Measuring fabric

Fabric already comes in straight lines and right angles, so I made it easy on myself and didn’t follow the curve of the batting exactly. Cuz it doesn’t matter. Are you picking up on how simple this is yet? None of the cutting really matters!

7. Layer your fabric, batting, foam, and piece of wood and start stapling!

I cut my pieces in this order for a reason. All I had to do at this point was add the piece of wood to the top of the pile and everything is already in the right order for me to start stapling! (Just make sure, if you broke the corners of your foam, that the unbroken edge of your foam is face up.)

I lined up my piece of wood on top of my foam, and then starting on one of the short edges, I pulled the fabric and batting around to the back of the wood and stapled it on. For the first round of staples I only stapled it about every three inches or so. You just want to get it all stapled on. Make sure that you are pulling your fabric tight as you do this.

DIY Desk Chair Makeover: First round of staples

See how the edges of the fabric aren’t pretty or anything and they are only pulled tight against the wood where the staples are? That’s totally fine. You just want to get the fabric stapled on at this point.

Next I did a second round of staples. This time I pulled the fabric even tighter around to the back and stapled it on about every half an inch on the corners and every inch on the flat sides. I’m of the opinion that you can’t have too many staples…just keep pulling your fabric tight and stapling it down until you’re happy with how tight all the edges are!

DIY Desk Chair Makeover: Stapled back corner

See how much more finished the edges of the backrest look now?! And for corners, I recommend folding the fabric over as you go around and stapling through a few layers of fabric to get it all to lay nice and flat.

8. Reassemble your chair

Now that you’ve got your seat and backrest reupholstered, all you need to do is reassemble the chair! There was some extra fabric on the back of the wood (you can see it on the corners in the photo above) so I cut that all off so it wouldn’t be too thick back there. Then I snapped the little black plastic pieces around the edges of the entire thing. And they totally fit, no issues! Woot!

Then I screwed the seat and backrest back onto the roll-y chair spine part and I was done! Brand new, beautiful, comfy, happy chair!

DIY Desk Chair Makeover

DIY Desk Chair Makeover

DIY Desk Chair Makeover

Isn’t that fabric super cute?!

The cats really like it too 🙂

DIY Desk Chair Makeover: Finnegan

This is seriously my favorite project that I’ve done. My husband thought I had gone a little crazy after I finished this cuz I kept hugging the chair every once in a while. But really, it just makes me so happy every time I look at it, I love it!

Have you ever reupholstered something before? I’ve seen some great reupholstering projects around the internet, but now that I have finished this, I’m a little less apprehensive about trying something bigger. It was really a lot easier than I had expected!


I link up at these awesome parties!

Jessi Wohlwend

I believe that anyone can do crafts and DIY projects, regardless of skill or experience. I love sharing simple craft ideas, step by step DIY project tutorials, cleaning hacks, and other tips and tricks all with one goal in mind: giving you the tools you need to “do it yourself”, complete fun projects, and make awesome things!

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Reader Interactions

  1. Desperate Craftwives says

    12 years ago

    WOW!!! The chair looks amazing. I have a gray, sad looking office chair that is screaming for a makeover!!

  2. JES says

    12 years ago

    This came out really nice! I never purchase office chairs because I don’t like the officy look but now I am going to rethink that!!! GREAT IDEA 🙂

  3. Stacia@ Feathers & Sunshine says

    12 years ago

    I have an office chair badly in need of some TLC. Seeing how awesome yours turned out, has given me the extra push to finally give it the attention it needs!

    • Jessi says

      12 years ago

      Do it! It really was a lot easier than I was expecting and I’m just thrilled with how it turned out!

    • Jessi says

      12 years ago

      Thanks Fran, glad you’re here!

  4. heidi says

    12 years ago

    Awesome job! I love the fabric. I will definitely be taking a second look when I see a desk chair second hand! PInning. Thanks for sharing this week at One Creative Weekend!

  5. Katie says

    12 years ago

    That cannot possibly be that easy. How cute it is!

    Also, Hyphen would feel your pain on the staple-pulling thing. Because do you know how they attach carpet to wood floors? Staples. And do you know what you have to do if you want to pull up the carpet and refinish the wood floors? Pull. Out. ALL THE STAPLES. Heh.

    • Jessi says

      12 years ago

      It really is that easy, I swear!

      And oh man, poor Hyphen. I do not envy him pulling out all the staples for an ENTIRE ROOM. Bummer… I thought about a hundred of them was bad…

  6. Kendra @ A Proverbs 31 Wife says

    12 years ago

    Jessi, it looks amazing! What I want to know is how you find time to do everything, if I recall right, you work outside the home more hours than I do and yet you come up with this??? Way to go girl!

    • Jessi says

      12 years ago

      Haha, yeah my mom wants to know that too. When I first started the blog she was all “Do you even work anymore?” Well, yes I do, but I guess I make time for crafting because it’s the fun part, it’s what I want to do to unwind from a crazy day at work when I get home.

      Plus, seriously, this took me like an hour to do. It was soooo much easier than I had originally thought it would be!

  7. crystal says

    12 years ago

    This is fantastic and so is your cat…looks just like my Olivia. 😉

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